Misdemeanors on Background Checks: An Essential Guide 

September 16, 2021
Checkr Editor

Editor’s note: Nothing in Checkr’s Blog should be construed as legal advice, guidance, or counsel. Companies should consult their own legal counsel about their compliance responsibilities under the FCRA and applicable state and local laws. Checkr expressly disclaims any warranties or responsibility or damages associated with or arising out of information provided.

Both employers and potential employees need to know about misdemeanor background checks, whether a misdemeanor will show up, and what it means for both parties. This guide will discuss what misdemeanor background checks reveal and answer some of the most common questions relating to them.

What is a misdemeanor?

Let’s first explore the definition of a misdemeanor. In the U.S., a misdemeanor is defined as a minor wrongdoing and can be quite common. While the maximum penalty for misdemeanors is 12 months incarceration, punishments usually involve probation, monetary fines, and community service.

Does a misdemeanor count as a crime? Yes, a misdemeanor is a crime, and that’s why certain background checks will bring up a conviction. In other words, candidates who have been convicted of a misdemeanor should still answer “Yes” when asked whether they have any criminal convictions.

Do misdemeanors show up on a background check?

Background checks conducted by employers are standard in the hiring process and will include a criminal history check. These background checks are based on the information provided by candidates, such as their Social Security Number. All criminal records, including felonies and misdemeanors, will appear, but it does depend on the type of background check conducted and rules specific to certain states. Let’s take a look at some of the different types of background checks.

State rules on disclosure of convictions

First, certain states do have rules on conviction disclosures. If you have a misdemeanor record, there may be a limited period relating to disclosure. For example, certain states prohibit disclosure of certain criminal records if more than seven years have passed since the conviction. These states are:

  • California
  • Kansas
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • Washington
  • New Mexico

Criminal background checks

If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, criminal background checks will reveal them unless prohibited by state law. These background checks also reveal pending criminal cases, history of incarceration, and some checks may also reveal arrests.

Pre-employment background checks

Most pre-employment background checks include a criminal background check to verify employment history, education, and any professional licenses. Misdemeanor background checks conducted as part of pre-employment verification could also include a screening of the candidate’s driving records and drug testing. However, there are limits on what pre-employment background checks can reveal, such as:

  • If a job pays less than $75,000, civil judgments, government sanctions, and disciplinary measures relating to professional licenses will not appear.
  • If a job pays more than $75,000, the above information can be revealed even if more than seven years have passed.

FBI background check

FBI background checks are typically used when applying for jobs with a Federal government agency and any company that works for them. It could also be used for jobs at the local and state government level. This background check covers all interactions with law enforcement, including parking tickets and traffic violations. Naturally, misdemeanors will also appear. This is often the first step to obtaining government security clearances.

Misdemeanor FAQs

Misdemeanor background checks can seem daunting. However, it's important to be honest on a job application. While technically considered a crime, a misdemeanor doesn’t automatically disqualify you from employment. Here are a few common questions we’ve received regarding misdemeanor background checks:

How long does a misdemeanor stay on your record?

Do misdemeanors go away? Generally, no. A misdemeanor remains a criminal conviction. However, after time has passed, you may be able to petition the court to have your misdemeanor sealed or expunged.

How do I know if I have a misdemeanor on my record?

There are several ways to get a copy of your criminal record. Approach your state bureau, state police, or state public safety office to obtain your record. You may be required to submit fingerprints.

Does a Class C misdemeanor stay on your record?

Yes, most criminal background checks will still reveal class C misdemeanors. It’s important to note Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas are the only states to use this classification for misdemeanors.However, some states are lenient when it comes to getting class C misdemeanors expunged, such as Texas.

Will juvenile records appear on a criminal record?

How long do misdemeanors stay on your record if you were convicted as a juvenile? In most cases, juvenile records can be sealed and/or expunged after you turn 18. However, you must petition the juvenile court where you were convicted, as this process generally is not automatic. Level 2 background checks will still bring up these records, but most criminal background checks exclude them.

Do pending and dismissed charges appear on criminal records?

Pending charges do sometimes appear, but some states like Kentucky prohibit this practice. Dismissed charges do appear in some background checks, but Federal guidelines prohibit candidates from being turned down for a job due to dismissed charges.


Misdemeanor background checks are nothing to be afraid of and are unlikely to automatically disqualify you from consideration. As a potential employee, it’s important to be honest about your record.

As experts in background checks, Checkr has the resources employers need to fully understand the purpose and process surrounding these checks, including criminal background screenings. You’ll quickly discover Checkr’s AI-powered platform will improve both the speed and accuracy of results.

When you work with us, you’ll get clear, actionable information that scales your process all while reducing the time and resources dedicated to background checks. Trust Checkr with the background checks you require to hire the staff you need in a safe and secure way.

Curious to learn more about background checks for your company? Talk to sales today.

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